Can Satellite TV Save a Senate Campaign?

The satellite industry is about to make campaign consultants’ dreams come true — for a fee.

Gov. Rick Snyder's "One Tough Nerd" ad helped propel him into office in 2010. This year, Michiganders might see dozens of different versions of a statewide ad, all targeted specifically to them.
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Jan. 27, 2014, 7:25 a.m.

Your tele­vi­sion is talk­ing to you — or at least it will be soon.

Dir­ecTV and Dish Net­work are team­ing up to of­fer something called “ad­dress­able ad­vert­ising,” or part­ner­ship. The idea be­hind the part­ner­ship is to al­low politi­cians to get ex­tremely spe­cif­ic as they tar­get their mes­saging.

Live in a re­tire­ment com­munity? You’ll prob­ably be see­ing lots of ads about So­cial Se­cur­ity. Do a lot of driv­ing? You’ll be hear­ing about gas prices. Wor­ried the loc­al fact­ory might close? Now you you’ll get to see your state’s Sen­ate hope­fuls try to outdo one an­oth­er with pledges to save it.

This kind of tar­geted ad­vert­ising isn’t new. All­state has used it to show one set of in­sur­ance ads to renters while homeown­ers see an­oth­er. But now satel­lite pro­viders are try­ing to use it to cash in on the big-money en­ter­prise of statewide polit­ic­al cam­paigns.

Ad­dress­able ad­vert­ising, said Dir­ecTV’s Keith Kazer­man, “util­izes highly soph­ist­ic­ated and tar­geted tech­no­logy that will al­low polit­ic­al cam­paigns to spe­cific­ally reach swing voters with TV ads. Cam­paigns can fo­cus their mes­sage to a pre­cise set of po­ten­tial voters and elim­in­ate the spend­ing waste.”

The pro­viders will be of­fer­ing the ser­vice for statewide cam­paigns. And while the part­ner­ship — which will start out with about five shared staffers in Wash­ing­ton and will be­gin selling ads in a couple weeks — has the satel­lite com­pan­ies see­ing green, it no doubt has cam­paign man­agers drool­ing as well.

Rather than dis­cuss­ing a broad plat­form on edu­ca­tion, your state’s gubernat­ori­al hope­ful can talk about his plan for your area’s strug­gling school dis­trict. Mean­while, the next town over, voters are hear­ing a plan to bol­ster a key loc­al in­dustry. So don’t be sur­prised if the ads for gov­ernor and sen­at­or start sound­ing a lot like the ads for your state rep­res­ent­at­ive. All polit­ics is loc­al, right?

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